Aberdeen Police Department school resource officer (SRO) Jason Neidig was getting messages from bored students who missed being in school during the COVID-19 pandemic-related closure. The NASRO member wanted to help, because like most SROs, Neidig is a community-oriented police officer who cares deeply about the community he serves and in which he lives. “I wanted the kids to know I am more than an eight-hour officer in their school,” Neidig explained in a message to NASRO’s public relations staff, “That I am in tune with their needs.”
So, beginning on the seventh day of the closure, Neidig began creating and publishing video segments. He uses them to promote topics such as “home school spirit week,” to encourage students throughout the Harford County Public Schools system and to solicit responses from students. In the first few videos, he offered prizes such as fast-food gift cards to students who submitted photos via Instagram.
Neidig plans to publish new videos about three times per week. He also plans live videos on Sunday evenings, including some with school officials such as principals. During live videos, Neidig discusses topics such as why schools are closed and the importance of social distancing. He also asks students how they are doing and tries to assure them that their schools haven’t forgotten about them.
The videos have been well received, Neidig wrote. Students interact. They ask questions, either publicly or in private messages. Students tell other students to follow him. While Neidig was on patrol, a parent he’d never met greeted him and said, “So you’re the officer all the kids talk about. They love you.”
“I strongly recommend SROs consider using social media to connect,” Neidig wrote. “Keep it upbeat, positive, be goofy, make fun of yourself; yet professional.” He recommends sharing something on social media daily, including family photos and off-duty hobbies. “Just be you. Be inspirational,” Neidig wrote.
“This is not about me,” Neidig continued. “This is about getting to know these students, their family, their needs, their likes and dislikes, what makes them tick, what sets them off, what can be done to make their day better.”